The jury is still out on title hopes of the surging Portland Trail Blazers and Atlanta Hawks. But its reached a verdict on the teams’ perpetually underrated big men: LaMarcus Aldridge and Al Horford are really, really good. After leading their squads to undefeated records last week, Aldridge and Horford have been named Conference Players of the Week for games played between December 15 and December 21.
Aldridge was utterly dominant for Portland, averaging 26.3 points and 14.3 rebounds per game on 51.7 percent shooting. He played his best against the best, too, notching 27 points and 12 rebounds versus Anthony Davis while helping limit The Brow to 3-of-14 shooting and a season-worst seven points. The Blazers also built on their recent success in games with the San Antonio Spurs, taking two from the champs last week to make them 7-2 versus Tim Duncan and company since 2012. Aldridge’s influence, of course, was typically large – he combined for 55 points and 30 rebounds in Portland’s victories over San Antonio.
If Aldridge and the Blazers are mostly overlooked, though, Horford and the Hawks aren’t noticed at all. Atlanta took three games from championship favorites last week, and now stands at 19-7 – just a game behind the Toronto Raptors in the loss column for first in the Eastern Conference.
Why? Horford played his best basketball of the season. The 6-10 center showed off his breadth of skills by averaging 18.3 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 5.0 assists per game on scorching 60.5 percent shooting. He’s been far more aggressive looking for his shot of late, an extremely encouraging development given an early season inability to get to the free throw line. And though most of Horford’s damage was still done as a jump-shooter, that it’s come at all is a welcome sign for a player recovering from a pair of biceps tears.
Aldridge and Horford are two of the game’s best interior players, and both are still evolving despite their status as veterans: The former has added the three-point to his arsenal this season, and the latter is embracing his natural talents as a Joakim Noah-style playmaker more than ever.
Given those developments and their excellent all-around play, it’s time to recognize Aldridge and Horford for what they are – superstar level players. Can they lead their teams to similarly exalted heights? We’ll see.
What do you think?
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